The Different Types of Google Ads Campaigns (and When to Use Them)

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With so many different types of Google Ads campaigns, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. Thankfully, I’ve seen campaign types develop and tested them all in the past 15 years. And today, I’ll show you the best ways to use each Google Ads campaign type.

This article will cover the following Google Ads campaign types:

  • Search ads
  • Display ads
  • Google video ads
  • Google Shopping ads (Smart shopping soon to be replaced by Performance Max)
  • App ads
  • Local ads (Soon to be replaced by Performance Max)
  • Smart campaigns
  • Performance Max
  • Discovery campaigns

1. When Should You Use Google Search Ads?

Use Google Search ads when you want to target your leads based on intent:

  • Do your leads just want information?
  • Are your leads comparing different solutions?
  • Are your leads looking for a specific type of service?

Since Google searches are so descriptive, you can zero in on the correct type of leads. Instead of just reaching a broad target audience (and then fending off time-wasters), you can reach your ideal customers based on their search terms. 

Now imagine just how many leads you’d get if you were a Bristol-based business with a tailored landing page!

For example, if you run a maintenance business in Bristol, you don’t have to exclusively target simple keywords like “maintenance expert Bristol.” 

Google Search campaigns allow you to apply your knowledge of your ideal customers to refine your targeting, so you create ads for specific needs like “preventative commercial maintenance in Bristol.” 

Learn More: The Ultimate Guide to Responsive Search Ads

2. When Should You Use Google AdWords Display Campaigns?

My Google Ads consulting clients and I often use Display ads for remarketing

Google Display campaigns don’t allow you to target specific intents through keywords. Instead, you’ll target topics and interests. This automatically leads to fewer predictable conversions (in comparison to Search campaigns).

However, you can use Display remarketing campaigns to reach people who have already shown interest in your offer

Bonus points if you run an interactive Display ad like Trivago.

Display campaigns are fantastic if your goal is to increase awareness or generate demand. However, be mindful of the different sizes.

For example, if you have a special promotional offer, use a Display campaign to get in front of more audience members. Similarly, if your offer is new to the market, you could run a Display campaign to educate unaware leads and generate demand.

3. The Best Ways to Use Google Video Ads for YouTube

YouTube and video Google Ads campaigns work best when you have an engaging story. It’s a fantastic channel for remarketing and initial campaigns – if you have the budget. I’m not just talking about the cost per click – a good video campaign needs to have high production value.

Grammarly’s ads are always visually appealing. 

For example, you could run Google video ad campaigns as part of your remarketing funnel. Re-engage warm leads with video ads showcasing social proof. Then, when they’ve watched more than 50% of your video, retarget them with a different ad or channel.

Seasoned Google Ads experts also use video completion rates to filter for higher-quality leads.

Finally, if your target audience often uses YouTube, promoting through Google AdWords video ads (when your competitors aren’t) is an excellent way to differentiate.

Learn More: Expert Advice for Using Google Ads for YouTube

4. Google Shopping Ads Campaigns

Google Shopping campaigns are perfect for reaching B2C eCommerce leads already doing product research or so close to the bottom of the funnel that they’re actively looking for the best offer.

Note: You can also advertise single-purchase software, but the application hasn’t caught on with software companies. It might be worth testing if you want to be where your competitors aren’t!

Unfortunately, advertisers often compete on the price. If that’s something you’re comfortable with – great! If not, you must ensure your offer is better than your competitors’ before launching your Google Shopping campaign.

Source: Shift4Shop

For example, when I started offering Google Ads training in 2008, I researched my competitors. Some offered free CDs with their training, others offered consultations, and some provided workbooks. Before launching my campaigns, I included everything they offered – plus a little extra

When the specs are the same, you have to make a plan for how to stand out.

Note: Smart Shopping campaigns are in the process of being converted to Performance Max campaigns.

Learn More: Google Shopping Ads Best Practices

5. Promote Your App (and More) with Google AdWords App Campaigns

Typically, you’d choose the App ads if you want to promote your app for first-time installs and to increase purchase value from existing users. 

However, you can also use App ads to promote your products and offers to mobile-first audiences. For example, if you or your PPC management service notice that you get many user acquisitions through mobile devices, consider in-app ads.

Don’t discount Google App ads! Just make sure your copy & visuals are enticing.

Unfortunately, App campaigns’ targeting isn’t as precise as targeting for other campaign types.

6. Think Globally and Act Locally with Google Ads Local Campaigns

Local campaigns are best suited to businesses that get a lot of traffic from “near me” queries in their search campaigns, but the applications vary. 

For example, a plumber who wants more leads may run the auto-suggestions ad campaign. Still, they wouldn’t necessarily run navigational campaigns (better suited to a local mechanic because it’s the type of journey that leads to navigational searches).

Understand how your ideal leads find you, and you’ll know which Local ad to run. Source: WebFX

As with any campaign, you need a thorough understanding of your audience’s buyer journey. Do they look for your service as they drive home from work, or do they have an emergency and call you while sitting in their living room? 

Note: Local campaigns are now being converted to Performance Max campaigns.

7. Letting Go of the Reins with Smart Campaigns

Smart campaigns are the most open-ended campaign type. You give Google Ads a good understanding of your business. Then, their algorithms set up and manage campaigns for you, including:

  • Creating ads
  • Adjusting bids
  • Optimising your ads

Use Smart campaigns in Google Ads to expand your audience and find more profitable customers based on your existing ideal customers. 

In my Google Ads coaching practice, I see Smart campaigns work best for companies who already understand their profitable audiences and want to capture a bigger market share.

Don’t treat Smart campaigns as a way to avoid managing your account. The algorithms aren’t quite there yet, so it’s best to learn how to make Google Ads work for your business first. Then, apply the learnings to your campaigns.

8. Kill Two Birds with One Performance Max Campaign

Performance Max campaigns adapt your ads for every channel under its umbrella so that you can appear simultaneously in the Search, on the Display network, on YouTube, and other placements.

Casting such a wide net is always a considerable risk, so you should have a sound conversion tracking system and an in-depth understanding of your audience

Different placement channels for Discovery Google Ads campaign types

Don’t treat pMax as a way to avoid managing your account. It could take you in all sorts of wasteful directions, spending your budget on less-than-optimal leads. Use it when you know what made your campaigns successful in the past, and now you want to scale it.

Learn More: The Definitive Guide to Performance Max Campaigns

9. When to Use Google AdWords Discovery Campaigns

If you’ve been considering Google Display ads, you’ll also want to consider Discovery campaigns. They’re perfect for expanding your reach (and remarketing). Plus, they allow you to appear in the YouTube, Chrome Discover and Gmail feeds. 

Example of a Google Ads discovery ad

Use Google Discovery ads to stay top of mind for already warm audiences, or identify your ideal leads and reach them with great copy and visually enticing creatives. 

Learn More: Expert Tips for Using Google Discovery Ads

Which Google Ads Campaign Type Should You Choose?

New advertiser? Start by focusing on the profitable leads with Google Search campaigns’ intent-based targeting.

Are you scaling up? Understand what makes your existing campaigns successful to apply it to new ones, identify the most profitable segments, and optimise for conversions with Performance Max or Smart Campaigns.

And if you want to make the most of the leads already familiar with your business, add Discovery and Display campaigns to your toolbox!

Do you need specialist help choosing the campaign type that will bring you the highest Return on Investment? Get in touch with me. My team and I have driven over £1mil+ for our customers with top-quality leads who will help your business grow! 

But if you’d like to learn how to make Google Ads work for your business first, get a copy of my best-selling Google Ads book to launch a successful campaign in 7 rapid steps.

Remember: every customer uses Google. All you have to do is reach them in the right way.

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